Second Son

In a world of straightforward confessional songs, it can be refreshing to hear epic lyrical landscapes spanning tales of vampires, street performers and talking flowers. Neil Holyoak has spent the last few years living in varied physical landscapes—moving between Montreal, Hong Kong, British Columbia and L.A.—and playing in various arrangements along the way under the moniker Holy Oak. All that experience is distilled into an earthy, alt-folk approach to narrative on the band’s fourth studio album, Second Son. Songs like “Just Married” manage to carry a broad, long tale with bare-bones finger-picking and Holyoak’s meandering vocals serving the song more than vice versa. The song spans nearly seven minutes, cycling the same simple melody, but the time passes easily under hypnotic storytelling. The down-tempo folk rock feels akin to Canadian artist Jonas Bonnetta (aka Evening Hymns) as well as the late Jason Molina, specifically during Holyoak’s vocal wavering on opener “Basilisk.” Songs like “Cockatoo” almost feel timeless, perhaps part of Holy Oak’s kaleidoscopic effect.